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Sunny Sopley Students!

November 12, 2008

It was a gloriously sunny day today, just right for spending a day out on the heath at Sopley.

The Sopley Common Info board

The Sopley Common Info board

There were 4 of us out there, Amanda, Anthony, Faye and me (Steve) and we had an appointment to meet plenty of students from Bournemouth Uni.  Why were we there, and what would we be doing?  Read on to find out….

It was simple really.  Dorset Wildlife Trust has a great relationship with the Uni, and plenty of students use us for placements and for projects for dissertations etc.  To further develop the link, we had offered to host a number of courses on Sopley Common as they completed their coursework on Phase 1 Habitat surveys.  Amanda and I would provide the techie speak about management plans and surveys, whilst Anthony and Faye (our tame young volunteers!) would engage the students while they were unawares and spread the word that DWT is a great organsiation to get involved with!  As it turned out, our working relationship with the Uni is even better than we had realised, as we immediately recognised quite few familiar, friendly faces as they strode towards us from the coach.  We knew then that our name was no doubt already quite high in the list of ‘people to talk to when it come to placement time’, so could relax and enoy the day with a great bunch..

Amanda keeps them enthralled with her tales..

Amanda keeps them enthralled with her tales...

After a quick intro to the site, and Amanda talking about our managment tactics, plus me waffling on about surveys for a bit, it was finally time to get to work.  The students had a very basic outline of the area to be surveyed and had one hour to carry out a Phase 1 habitat survey.  Sounds quite daunting, and to do it properly would normally take a lot longer, but to get a feel for it an hour was about right. 

Getting to grips with surveys

Getting to grips with surveys

 It involves making decisions about what type of vegetation exists in compartments or patches, finding the code for it and then putting that on the map.  Eventually you should get a map covered in symbols that will indicate where the vegetation changes and what the dominant habitat it across the site.  That probably didn’t explain it very well I know, but it’s the best I could come up with – sorry!

Amazingly, given that it’s now mid-November and there was a sharp frost this morning, we even saw about 3 pairs of Common Darter dragonflies egg-laying in one of the ponds!  The 2 roe deer that had decided to sit tight and hope we hadn’t seen them , eventually broke cover as we were about 20 feet away -and were quite right, we hadn’t seen them at all!

Common Darters

Common Darters

It was also a lichen day, with loads of Cladonia and even a few of my favourite lichen (and what’s wrong with having a favourite lichen?) – Devils matchsticks.  The scarlet red of the fruiting heads stood out from quite a distance – I think they look amazing!

Devils Matchsticks - looking good!

Devils Matchsticks - looking good!

The students steadily worked their way down through the site, towards the coach.  It was impressive to see how they managed to increase their speed as soon as they reached the shaded section at the end – no doubt hurried on by the bitter cold away from the sun!  I couldn’t blame them though, as it really did start to get decidedly parky – and I was glad to be able to get back into the warmth of the van at the end!

All in all, a good day I think.  We reinforced our working relationship with the Uni, and got quite a few enquiries about how to get involved with not just placements but also general volunteering tasks.


It’s our turn to visit the Uni tomorrow as Amanda and I go off to meet another group – check the blog on friday for more news on that….

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